National Science Week – did you?

By Dr Andrea Jaggi

When you see these National Science Week characters, what springs to mind? Do you see scientists and technologists? Engineers and mathematicians? Do you see curious individuals, wanting to explore the world around them? Is it how you imagine yourself in the future?

National Science Week was 16-23 August this year, and these characters reflect the week’s purpose – to provide nine days of celebratory science and technology; a time for everyone to ignite their curiosity, explore the contributions of Australian scientists’, encourage a deeper understanding and fascination of the world we live in, and provide opportunity to discover the places science can take you. Each year in August thousands of events around Australia bring science to the people; explorations underwater, through forests and underground by researchers and curious humans in universities, schools, research institutions, libraries, museums and science centres. In a regular year, the events attract a wide audience from children to adults, science amateurs to professionals, with over 1 million people participating in events nation-wide.

As readers of our blog, you would be no strangers to the fact that STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) are fundamental to everything we do – these topics allow us to play, create, discover and collaborate with those curious about the world around them right throughout the year, although Science Week definitely holds a special place in our ventricular cockles (our heart).

The Voyager team are currently in the lab, not schools; however, we did not want to see this as a barrier to STEAM into Science Week. With the unprecedented pandemic forcing us to think creatively on how we might still bring the celebration of science and technology to our community at a time we all need it most, we thought creating moments of wonder and surprise might just spark the curiosity of our young ones (and old!) and facilitate their search for understanding what science means to them.

Artwork: Louse Streeting, Discovery Submarine. Did you know, only about 5% of the world’s oceans have been explored?

Artwork: Louise Streeting, Giant Prawn. Fun fact: A prawn’s heart is in its head!

The 2020 National Science Week theme for schools was ‘Deep-Blue: Innovations for the Future of our Oceans’, which aimed to “embrace the innovative technologies, capabilities and skills needed to achieve economic, environmental and social sustainability of our oceans. It features insights and inquiries into workable solutions that generate healthy oceans, healthy economies and healthy communities.” ( Our moments of wonder and surprise around our Armidale city and UNE campus reflected this theme, with the team creating chalk murals of our oceans, schools of origami sea-life, knitted ocean plants, crotched fish and painted river rocks (part of the NSW Rocks project), each paired with a point of curiosity and fun fact about the Earth’s incredible oceans.

We collaborated with Armidale Regional Council to fill the Mall, walls and plant stalls with colour and delight with the aim to spread a smile across our community, and cultivate curiosity for the wonders of the ocean. Thanks to the North West Regional Science Hub, we also teamed up with local artists Louise Streeting and Nadia Waters, who, laden with chalk and ladders, tackled the larger and more prominent spaces creating the magnificent works here.

Artwork: Louise Streeting, Blue Whale. Fun fact: The call of the blue whale is the loudest sound made by any animal on the planet.

Artist: Nadia Waters, Underwater Mountain Range and Sea Life. Fun fact: The largest mountain range is found underwater and is nearly 65000km in length.

Artwork: Nadia Waters, Sea Life. Fun fact: The ocean is home to 95% of all life on Earth.

Louise, a staff member and PhD student, creates scientific illustrations for research publications and teaching resources here at UNE, and spoke to UNE Life about her Science Week creations. Lou highlighted the importance of STEAM to her, explaining “Using the real world in learning experiences and getting kids to think about the world around them is invaluable. Witnessing their curiosity and amazement as they learn is so rewarding. I have been able to involve local school kids in hatchling turtle release days [part of Lou’s PhD] and the enthusiasm and ownership that they get from this experience make it so worthwhile.” We also asked Lou what her Science Week message to the community might be, to which she responded; “My message is… Go out and look around, explore nature! There are so many amazing things to learn and discover!”. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! Click here to read an interview with Louise.

We would not have been able to play, create, and foster curiosity in our community without the incredible support of so many individuals who helped us celebrate Science Week in artistic style – local businesses, Armidale Regional Council, local artists, New England North West Regional Science Hub, Inspiring Australia, UNE Life, University of New England, NSW Rocks, UNE Academics, UNE Science, STEM enthusiasts and so many more – we’re so fortunate to have been able to collaborate with you all.

Science Week may be over, but there are 357 other days of the year that rely on the ingenuities, discoveries and curiosities of STEAM; so go and explore your surroundings, ignite your curiosity, let your imagination run wild, and discover the science that makes our world what it is today!